The easing of restrictions deception
Who is the prime minister trying to fool when he pledges in front of the whole world to lift a number of restrictions at dozens of the internal roadblocks that disrupt any chance of normal life in the West Bank?
It is not clear who Israel is trying to cheat when it declares it is easing restrictions at roadblocks in the West Bank. Who is the prime minister trying to fool when he pledges in front of the whole world to lift a number of restrictions at dozens of the internal roadblocks that disrupt any chance of normal life in the West Bank? Did he intend to implement them, and is the Israel Defense Forces going against his instructions and making a laughing stock out of him? Today marks two weeks since the easing of restrictions was to have started, as promised by Ehud Olmert in his meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on December 24 in Jerusalem. A Haaretz investigation of the situation last week revealed that only lesser restrictions are being eased, and in many cases none are being eased at all. At most of the 15 roadblocks examined by Haaretz journalist Avi Issacharoff there was no change, at others the change was made at a much earlier time, and at some, the commanders had heard of no orders regarding a policy change.
In some areas the IDF has added mobile roadblocks, which render meaningless even the slight lifting of restrictions that has taken place. Only those who have recently traveled the West Bank's roads, passing two or three roadblocks over a distance of a few kilometers, between Hawara and Tapuah, can know what is involved. Passage through these roadblocks can take hours.
The lifting of restrictions involves only roadblocks within the West Bank, not those at entry points to Israel. Such a dense system of roadblocks, with such a long wait at each one, sometimes due only to a degrading attitude on the part of soldiers, prevents minimal freedom of movement for Palestinians, which cannot be explained by security considerations.
If Olmert wanted to cheat Abbas, he should be condemned for it. A situation in which a clear pledge by the prime minister is immediately exposed as a collection of hollow words does not add to Israel's stature. However, if he had truly planned to make good on his promise, the heads of the IDF are to blame for not doing a thing to implement the government's instructions. GOC Central Command Yair Naveh expressed clear opposition to the easing of restrictions. Going against a government decision is a very serious matter.
This is not the first time an Israeli pledge to ease restrictions has remained unimplemented. The U.S. secretary of state, who arrived in Israel yesterday, certainly recalls the feverish discussions in which she took part more than a year ago to reach the "crossings agreement," signed by Israel. A November United Nations report determined that Israel reneged on every one of the agreement's clauses. In fact, it never implemented it.
The non-fulfillment of an obligation by the prime minister also makes a laughing stock out of Abbas, whom Israel (and the U.S.) want to support. "Stay away from us. You don't help, you only do damage. Every time somebody on your side talks about 'helping Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas],' they hurt him. Your humanitarian breaks no longer interest us. Lifting a roadblock or two won't make any difference," Mohammed Dahlan told Haaretz last week. Israel, which claims to be seeking a moderate Palestinian, should be listening to these statements.